Even the best cared-for horses can become ill at any stage of their lives. Skin problems such as mange develop because of exposure to parasites. Although mange can be effectively treated, it can be worrisome if the infestation becomes severe. Learning the symptoms of mange will help you be more aware of problems and know when to seek veterinarian advice.
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Mange can be located anywhere on a horse and is caused by small parasites called mites, according to researchers at North Dakota State University. They burrow small holes in a horse's skin and lay their eggs. The tunnels that mites burrow, in conjunction with a toxin they release, cause symptoms to develop in the host horse. Demodectic mites usually infect the neck and shoulders. Chigger mites can be found anywhere on the horse, while Chorioptes tend to affect the foot and fetlock.
In general, the toxin that the mites release causes the skin to become irritated, resulting in red, inflamed patches. It usually begins to cause severe itching. Often, the irritation leads to areas of the skin becoming dry. Cracking of the skin also can occur. As the skin becomes itchy, the horse will begin to find ways to relieve it, usually resulting in patchy hair and multiple bald spots. In extreme cases of Chorioptic mange, open, wet sores will form around the fetlocks as the skin cracks.
Another common sign is scabs on the skin. Scabs can occur for several reasons. Since the irritated skin is itchy, a horse is likely to scratch it. Excessive scratching or even licking of the area can result in open sores, which in turn scabs over. In some cases, when a horse is rubbing irritated skin, the surface it rubs against may cut it, eventually resulting in a scab. The other common cause of scabs is lesions that develop from the irritation. According to Merial, a company that specialises in animal health, mites can cause lesions to form that then drain a puslike substance. This substance then dries and crusts over. As the scabs form, the mites will move to healthy areas of skin and continue their cycle, further affecting the host horse.
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